Report: Trump Admin Secretly Withheld Millions From FDNY 9/11 Health Program
The New York Daily News reports that the Trump administration has secretly held back nearly $4 million from a program for treating and tracking FDNY firefighters and other first responders who suffer from illnesses related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
According to the report, the Treasury Department started siphoning parts of payments nearly four years ago without explanation.
Those payments are “meant to cover medical services for firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics treated by the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program.”
The payments were authorized and made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which oversees the program. But instead of sending the funds to the city, the Treasury started keeping some of the money.
“This was just disappearing,” the program’s director, Dr. David Prezant, told The News. “This is the most amazing thing. This was disappearing — without any notification.”
Prezant said he was docked about half a million dollars each year in 2016 and 2017. Then it crept up to about $630,000 in 2018 and 2019. This year, Treasury has nearly tripled its extractions, diverting $1.447 million through late August, according to Prezant.
“Here we have sick World Trade Center-exposed firefighters and EMS workers, at a time when the city is having difficult financial circumstances due to COVID-19, and we’re not getting the money we need to be able to treat these heroes,” said Prezant, the FDNY’s Chief Medical Officer.
Prezant said for four years, they have received no letter of explanation as to why the funds are being withheld.
“After years of complaining, Prezant did get a partial answer when Long Island Republican Rep. Pete King put his political weight behind the inquiry,” The Daily News reported. “That answer was that some other agency in the city has been in an unrelated feud with the feds over Medicare bills.”
King wrote to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin earlier this summer asking for an explanation and solution but has heard nothing so far.
Congress created a temporary health program in 2010, with the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The program was extended by 75 years in Dec. 2015, after sick and dying 9/11 workers made hundreds of trips to the Capitol pleading their cause.
“I’m not sure what quite what to make of this other than it’s despicable,” said Jake Lemonda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. “We’ve fought very hard for many years for these funds to provide proper medical treatment for our sick and injured. The withholding of these funds without a legitimate explanation is inexcusable.”
Prezant said the program has reached a point where layoffs could soon become necessary.